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Bible Copyright Discussion

There is a wonderful quote from Nehemiah Gordon (a Karaite Jew) on www.karaite-korner.com saying: Copyright Notice: The Tanakh/Tanach, an acronym for the Torah (the Pentateuch, the 5 books of Moses) the Neviim (the prophets) and the Ketuvim (the writings), i.e. the old testament according to the Hebrew Canon, is copyright YHWH, Most High God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, c.1500 BCE. Actually the notice should read copyright YHWH, 1513-440 BC. He then asserts that the electronic version (which you can download from his site) is Public Domain. For that surely is the will of God, who is the editor, or should we say the ghost writer, of the book. Certainly the Hebrew letters are his copyright. The vowel pointing was copyright of the masorete scribes who added them and copied the Tanach down through the centuries. But the Masoretes who vowel pointed the main Hebrew texts we use today died around 1,000 years ago. So the vowel pointing is out of copyright. Now it is the purpose of modern Hebrew text scholars to produce a Codex that is as close a possible to the original. Putting this another way they are trying not to add new creative material to the Tanach, but actually to remove any material which may have been added over the years. So to claim copyright on the result of that process cannot possibly work under man's law and representing that the works of God are owned by man is a really bad idea from a salvation standpoint. 

However it is an expensive and laborious and time consuming process to make an accurate digitization of the bible, and in this world people expect to get paid for doing work. The scripture also says that the worker (for God) is worthy of his wages (from man). 

TYN And in the same housse tary still eatinge and drinkinge soche as they have. For the laborer is worthy of his rewarde. Go not from housse to housse: 
KJV And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. 
ASV And in that same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. 
NWT So stay in that house, eating and drinking the things they provide, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Do not be transferring from house to house (Luke 10:7). 

So one cannot object to paying some sort of fee, which might as well be a licence fee, for exploiting electronic digitizations of the bible resulting from a lot of work by dedicated people. Now Jesus' advice was to pay Caesar's things to Caesar, but God's things to God. So how does one reconcile both of these requirements in the case of a digitized bible? Here is our suggestion. The Nehemiah Gordon/Gordon Ritchie solution.

All scripture, both the old and the new testaments are copyright of YHWH, the inventor of love, the creator of the heavens, the earth, the angels and mankind, the editor/ghost writer of the bible, 1513BC to 100AD. Even Jesus Christ himself, the word of God, the only begotten God, did not claim ownership of scripture, for he said...

What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me (John 7:16)

For the bible is said by Paul to be the word of God, not the word of Jesus or Moses, although it contains many of their words.

For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and [their] marrow, and [is] able to discern thoughts and intentions of [the] heart (Hebrews 4:12).

In order to pay God's things to God one has to make any digitized bible codex freely available to anyone who wishes to do bible research with it.
In order to pay Caesar's things to Caesar, the digitizer can choose to charge a licence fee for making available a digitized bible codex to any commercial outfit that sells a product containing that codex (unless that outfit can prove that the codex is given away free and they are charging for other parts of their product).

So a digitized bible is copyright of God and therefore must be freely copyable for non commercial use (God's things).
But licence fee rights for commercial use belong to the digitizer (Caesar's things).

In other words the digitizer has a commercial only copyright. And God has the non commercial copyright.

Technically it would be hard for a bible digitizer to claim that he had a commercial only copyright in the case of an original language (Greek or Hebrew) codex, since there is by definition no new content added. Unless he claimed that there was creative work involved in ensuring that there was no extra non divine creative work added to the codex! 

However with a bible translation certainly there is creative work involved.

Deutsche Bible Society and the Alan Groves Centre at the Westminster Theological Seminary go a long was towards the above definition by making available a digitized version of the BHS in the Cardo font for free from the Oxford Text Archive etc. http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/index.php?page=UnicodeBibles